Northern Ireland

Gerry McGeough guilty of 1981 Samuel Brush murder bid

A republican has been found guilty of attempting to murder a UDR soldier in June 1981.

Gerry McGeough, who was arrested in 2007, was convicted of trying to kill Samuel Brush, who is now a DUP councillor in Dungannon.

McGeough was also convicted of possessing firearms with intent and holding IRA membership.

McGeough's co-accused Vincent McAnespie was acquitted of the charges against him.

'Numerous strands of evidence'

The Diplock non-jury court heard that on the day of the attack Mr Brush, who worked as a postman as well as being a part-time member of the UDR, was making a delivery to a house north of Aughnacloy in County Tyrone.

He had just put a letter through the letterbox when he saw a masked gunman stepping out from an adjacent shed, turn in his direction and shoot at him from a distance of about 12ft.

However, a bullet proof jacket saved his life and he returned fire with his own personal protection pistol, wounding the gunman.

McGeough was arrested in March 2007 as he left a polling station in Fermanagh where he was standing as a republican candidate,

The judge said he was convinced of Mr McGeough's guilt by numerous strands of evidence against him.

He said that two hours after the shooting, a man calling himself Gerry McGeough and with the same personal details as the defendant was admitted to Monaghan Hospital with a gunshot wound.

He added that the bullet taken from him was consistent with having been fired by the revolver Mr Brush used to return fire.

Image caption DUP MLA Arlene Foster attended court with Mr Brush

here was also consistent scarring from the surgery on McGeough's torso and a large eagle tattoo on his arm which matched that seen by an Irish police officer.

'Adverse inference'

Mr Justice Stephens said he was also drawing an "adverse inference" from McGeough's failure to testify during the trial.

The 52-year-old from the Carrycastle Road in Gortmerron, Dungannon, was also convicted of possessing two revolvers used in the attack and two counts of being a member of the IRA on dates between January 1975 and June 1981.

As McGeough was led to the cells, he cried out "long live the Irish nation" to cheers from his friends and family who had packed the public gallery.

Mr Justice Stephens adjourned passing sentence until next month when pre-sentence probation and medical reports have been compiled.

A defence barrister pointed out that his client may only serve two years in custody under the terms of of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McAnespie, 47, from Aghabo Close in Aughnacloy, had denied possessing two revolvers and ammunition with intent to endanger life and a further charge of impeding the apprehension ofMcGeough by hiding the pistols.

The judge acquitted Mr McAnespie of all charges because the only evidence against him had come from a husband and wife who claimed they had seen him shortly after the shooting.

However the couple did not give evidence in the trial and the judge said he had warned himself about the "frailities" of hearsay evidence, especially in circumstances where Mr McAnespie had given evidence on his own behalf.

'A long time coming'

Speaking outside the court where he was given congratulatory hugs from friends and family including DUP MLA Arlene Foster, Mr Brush said the judge's verdicts had been "a long time coming".

He said the shooting had affected his life and his family's life for 30 years.

"I would want to point out to any young person who feels that they should get involved in terrorist activity that there's a good possibility their past will catch up with them even 30 years later," he added.

Image caption Samuel Brush was delivering a letter to a house near Aughnacloy when he was shot by McGeough

"They will always be looking over their shoulder."

McGeough later escaped from a Dublin hospital despite being under armed guard.

His trial heard that he sought political asylum in Sweden in 1983 and wrote a letter to Swedish authorities admitting to having shot a soldier.

'Geneva convention'

Swedish immigration legal expert Helene Hedribris appeared in court and quoted from Mr McGeough's letter: "I went there to ambush him and in accordance with the Geneva Convention, I wore military uniform.

"I shot him in the chest but I now realise that he was wearing a bullet proof vest under his shirt. He returned fire and wounded me."

Mr McGeough said that after he escaped, he went to America where he arranged for arms, missiles and ammunitions to be sent to the IRA in Northern Ireland.

The letter also claimed that by 1982, McGeough was back in Ireland but fearful that if caught, the authorities would kill him.

Asked by a prosecution lawyer if McGeough had been granted asylum, Mrs Hebridis said he had not and also that an appeal against the decision was also refused.

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